Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

The All Needs Approach to Emergency Response

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

The All Needs Approach to Emergency Response

Article excerpt


This article presents a model for an All Needs Approach to catastrophic event preparedness and response. It advances the premise that the focus on threat elements needlessly truncates and Balkanizes the full role of government in a disaster, which is to provide immediate relief and to facilitate full recovery of the physical and social community infrastructures. By basing planning on the needs of the impacted population ? the "all needs" approach ? planners can better prioritize the full range of requirements and fully integrate both the government and non-government contributions.

This model is based on well-accepted scientific research and is aimed at understanding and integrating needs of all types of individuals in an emergency situation, including the need to care for others (e.g., family, pets, or patients). The article starts by outlining some basic principles of motivation and relates these to the human decision-making processes and behaviors in emergencies. We then show how special needs fit into this framework. Next we present a model for an All Needs Approach and demonstrate how it might be used to define emergency care.

The national approach to emergency response vacillates between two philosophies. The first parallels the mode of thought of the early days of emergency management, wherein each type of emergency is considered an independent entity with scenario-specific issues of planning, response, and recovery. In 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union eliminated central control of its considerable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and generated concern over potential terrorist use within the United States. Planning shifted from a focus on a single, technologically advanced adversary to a mix of threats by non-state actors, disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. By the middle of the decade, a broader definition of emergency preparedness began to emerge. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 provided deadly affirmation of the need for a shift in planning for emergency response.

"In 1996, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program established the first homeland security training programs to prepare U.S. cities to respond to terrorist attacks."1 Created by the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 (an amendment to National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997), the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici program provided training and equipment to the nation's largest 120 cities. The authorizing legislation designated the Department of Defense (DoD) as lead agency and assigned participating agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Service, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.2

The 1996 publication of the Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning by FEMA signaled a paradigm shift from a concrete, scenario-based emergency management perspective to a more abstract focus on the common response elements across emergency events. This focus on hazard commonalties represented disaster response issues as a family of general problems with common threat elements to be mitigated. This approach was designed to help emergency managers leverage efficiencies in planning for and responding to emergencies and detect gaps in plans and responses.

The events of September 11, 2001 and the ensuing postal anthrax attacks resulted in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the incorporation of FEMA into the department. The need to respond to acts of terrorism broadened the planning focus within the FEMA agenda. The 2005 National Planning Scenarios outlined fifteen likely natural and man-made disasters that were intended "for use in national, federal, state, and local homeland security preparedness activities. …

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